Monday, December 27, 2010

Going global

I'm coming out all over the place, as a feminist, as a Mormon, as an activist, as an aspiring midwife. Awareness and passion for all of these ideas and activities has led me to expand my focus for what is wrong with the world and what I can do about it.

There is a great deal of conversation on birth blogs that birth advocacy is a inherently biased by privilege, class and race. And I could honestly be a poster child for that. White, middle-class, advanced education, had a negative birth experience and got all uppity about it. In my defense, I had to start somewhere and have my feminist awakening in some way.

I truly believe that my experience giving birth to Willem humbled me in a way where I felt compelled to be more compassionate and empathetic to the suffering of other women. I felt the need to do something about it and one step at a time, my perspective broadened and I took in more of the needless, unethical suffering women experience the world over.

For a few years now, I'm worked with Solace for Mothers and the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services on The Birth Survey. In the last year however, I felt strongly that there is more that I can do than tackle birth from a privileged view.

Some of the efforts of others have brought me to this awareness of thinking outside myself and people most like me. Through their efforts I have found the solidarity of sistership that comes from just being a woman among women. I know I will never be able to set aside my race or my privilege entirely but I cannot let that be an excuse to not be involved in where help is needed and where I am capable of doing something that can help.

Two documentaries shaped this broadening of thought and feminist activist: firstly, Tanya Lee Jones' documentary on preconception education and reducing prematurity in low-income, black America (I cannot find the link for the life of me, maybe someone can help) and "A Walk to Beautiful" which is the story of obstetric fistula patients in Africa who for years, in cases, are unable to access health care to repair their childbirth injuries.

Then I was introduced to two books, "The Life You Can Save" and "Half the Sky" both of which I reviewed (links go to my reviews) where I learned some of the simple ways to make an impact in relieving the suffering and poverty of women in developing countries.

In some ways, the activism work that can be done there seems much more simple than the activism that I do there. In developing countries, often it is infrastructure building and small micro-loans that can make a world of different to women and children who are without means to care for and educate themselves.  Yet, here in the United States, and especially with birth activism, its not about lack of resources its about misplaced resources. It is easier to build something than it is to move a monstrosity of an establishment that is entrenched in its ways.

Maybe its an act of trying to comfort myself, when I feel discouraged in getting obstetric violence laws enacted in the United States, or changing the way providers treat women during labor, I know I can get on and make a loan that will better someone's life.

But yet it goes beyond that, I want my children to have an awareness of the world that extends beyond vacations and resorts. I'd like to take them to Africa someday, not to stay where the tourists are, but to work with an organization like THARCE-Gulu where they can play with the local children, while my husband and I work to make a difference in people's lives. If one is going to travel to see the country and learn the culture, than what better way than among its people?

Please excuse the disjointedness of this entry. I am making sense of what is available to me and what I can realistically do. As a child being raised an a Unitarian Universalist, I developed a desire to make a difference and change the world. Now as a young mother, I'm still figuring it out. For a while I thought it was through my own family and being a mother to my children. But in being a mother, I found that I can be involved in changing the world for them. And it is through those efforts, that they too might have a desire to change the world for others. I do not need to put off these efforts until they are older, Someday I do hope to be a service missionary for my church and travel to countries in need of humanitarian aid, but as I learn about volunteer opportunities, I find that I can do some of it now and with children.

My next step is to figure out which organizations will encourage families to volunteer together. I know of where families with young children can go and volunteer on organic farms around the world. I hope that someday my husband and I will do a trip like that, but I also would like to find opportunities that are more in line with my interests as a feminist, and birth activist.  Do you know of any?

1 comment:

cc said...

I don't know of anything more to do, but I just have to say that I feel so similarly. I want to make a difference NOW so that I can see progress for my children. I understand this pull and I hope to be able to find more and more opportunities to share my abilities and privilege with those that it can do the most good for.

My thinking is that there will be more avenues of service created as we spread awareness and as we reach a critical mass of education on these issues. Or at least, that's my hope.